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A much-hyped cookware startup comes to boil
Creative agency Gin Lane burnt out when their popularity within the direct to consumer industry demanded too much of their livelihood. Now, they're launching a cookery brand that emphasizes self-care.
Gin Lane was a top creative agency for direct to consumer heavyweights like Harry's, Hims, and Smile Direct Club—but demand for their services started to seep into their lives outside of the workplace.
After helping launch over 50 startups and creating nearly $10B in market value, the leadership team was starting to feel burnt out. But thanks to a mindful readiness and the privilege of the established relationships they had worked to develop, Gin Lane decided that it was time make a pivot. A hard one.
Instead of establishing a secondary business, or hiring new leadership to loosen the slack, Emmett Shine and Nick Ling decided instead that it was time for the agency to become the brand. By sunsetting the agency, they could put their 12 years of experience alongside DTC's finest to work, and focus on launching a family of brands offering products directly to consumers. The resulting spinout, the recently announced Pattern Brands, was unsurprisingly hotly received by big name venture firms including Kleiner Perkins and RRE, and Pattern found itself with an eye-opening raise of $14M.
The debut of Pattern's first brand, Equal Parts, a kitchenware company with adjacent services, is on the cusp of launching later this month.
With the stated purpose of helping humans "enjoy daily life," Pattern is leaning into a tenderness and creative mindset uncommonly associated with the sleek, tech-signaling brands of the modern DTC movement. By promoting an emphasis on self-fulfillment and lowering the barriers associated with hobbyism and craft, Pattern is betting that maturing millennials are ready to invest back into themselves, embracing unplugged activities for the pure sake of enjoyment.
Supermaker spoke with Co-Founder and Executive Creative Director Emmett Shine for the scoop.
You’re shutting down Gin Lane, one of the most influential agencies in the direct to consumer industry, to launch Pattern Brands. Why?
Gin Lane was in some ways an exercise in studying and understanding how modern consumer businesses are built, launched, marketed and maintained. About half a decade ago, right after we helped launch Harry’s, we realized first-hand something special was going on in NYC and there was maybe a special opportunity here for our team.
That ended up being Pattern—a family of brands designed to help young adults today better 'enjoy daily life' through products and guidance.
It wasn’t a linear route though. If you go back, we had been a small digital agency for half a decade before we got deep into the fledgling startup ecosystem, working with artists, designers, and fashion brands.
When we began working closely with the entrepreneurs leading the startup charge out of NYC, we started thinking that we were at the nexus of something transformative happening. Let’s focus on this part of the market as much as possible, go all in, learn as much as we can, and figure out organically what could be next for us.
Two years later, my partner, Nick Ling, and I started to seriously explore how we could A) Keep our tight-knit team together, B) Go even deeper into the work we loved doing (building digital-first brands), and C) Focus on an opportunity to tackle something personal to us.
The last area became maybe the most important one. Trying to combat a rising sense of burnout, fatigue in our daily lives, feeling stuck between a day dominated by work and screens.
These three goals became the catalyst for us forming Pattern, a place where we could keep working together, go deeper on brand-building, and take on a problem that we felt, and still feel, is an important issue a lot of Americans are struggling with today.
Launching your own brand and products means defining a new set of core values. How did you approach that process? Is it different than how you defined them at the agency?
Pattern has a value system built on five core beliefs to hold ourselves accountable for each decision we make. We call it REACH as it stands for 'Responsibility, Equity, Acceptance, Curiosity, Hospitality.'
Foundationally, all of these values are carried over from culture we developed over a decade at Gin Lane. Pattern gives our organization more of an ability to singularly focus on each area.
Whereas before we had to very much focus each day on helping to create and manifest the core values of other nascent businesses, Pattern allows all team members to focus on the same goals and values as one team. It’s been awesome so far.
Pattern and Equal Parts visual worlds are impressive, but represent a departure from the sleek identity of many of the direct to consumer brands you’ve worked with, opting for handwritten elements, a kindhearted feel, and an abundance of color. Is design something you approach intuitively, or was this too an extension of the brand values and effort to stand out from the crowd?
I’m really excited for where I hope we can push ourselves, and our category towards, creatively. We’ve always been inspired by world-building, from Marvel’s universe, the Star Wars central narrative, to the details and research that go into constructing worlds for Pixar.
Because we are our own client, we can take some risks that are hard to put on an entrepreneur. For Pattern, and our first brand Equal Parts, we wanted to really lean into a 'touched-by-hand' artistic aesthetic. The logos and iconography are all drawn, and my mom, a lifelong artist, painted all of the watercolor elements for Pattern’s world, and our original tree logo.
Today, when something succeeds, it seems like it’s faster than ever for people to replicate something similar enough. I think in our industry you can see that in the advertisements in the subway or on Instagram.
For us, crafting worlds and visuals by hand was something that we felt would not only be harder to replicate,’ but it felt importantly aligned with the vibe of what Pattern is trying to present—a world where slowing down, putting your phone down, being present, eschewing perfection for enjoyment, and taking a deep breath is more the norm.
From the trees, to the sky, clouds, and interiors, we wanted to create a modern day version of Goodnight Moon and Celestial Seasonings.
You mentioned that you debated whether Pattern should even be on Instagram. Rather than post daily, or in the moment, you've instead opted to keep “office hours” hosting conversations and sharing posts from 3-5PM, three times a week. Why take this approach to the platform?
We went back and forth a lot on this. I think social media is today for our generation what the mall was for people in the 80s, but with the gaming mechanisms of a slot machine casino thrown in. Meaning, it’s a fun place to hang out, see your friends, explore, browse, learn, [and] interact—however, there are inherent design elements that make you lose track of time and stay inside for way longer than you may have planned, or to subconsciously think about what’s going on all the time when you are away.
Keeping the metaphor going, Pattern decided to essentially ‘set up a store’ in the mall, to hand out pamphlets giving guidance and insights to people on how to leave the mall, and enjoy life outside of its walls again.
We’re trying to minimize, as much as possible, driving people from outside social media into it. And we’re trying to be transparent about our hours so if you care about our message and content, you know when we’re posting and talking and don’t have to guess when to drop by.
On Instagram, success for Pattern is being measured by a post’s shares and saves, not likes or typical engagement metrics. Saves and shares show when content is valuable enough for someone to save it to reference later, or to share with something they think would enjoy it. So far we’ve seen really incredible rates of people saving and sharing our posts, which is great.
Social media can be compared to sugar, or wine, or watching TV. These are all parts of life we as humans love, but are best done with some semblance of moderation and balance.
I think the internet, the mobile internet, and social media are so young that we haven’t as a society really yet come to terms with the equivalent of understanding what is a nice balance, and what is too much for us. While they are monetarily free, we pay a lot in time, which is probably a more valuable and finite currency.
Can you tell us more about Give One? What considerations do you make when deciding who receives those funds, and how does that tie in to Pattern's mission?
Give One is a nonprofit initiative from Pattern designed to help communities around the country better enjoy daily life. What that means is that each brand Pattern builds [Equal Parts being the first one] pledges 1% of total annual revenue through Give One to be used in neighborhood organizations that are helping everyday people get some help and assistance in areas that can essentially make daily life a little bit more enjoyable.
Think of after-school, sports, and mentorship programs for kids and teenagers, to community events, lunches and dinners that can provide opportunities for some of the elderly in a neighborhood to socialize, be with others, and share a nice meal.
We know not everyone can afford all of what Pattern will sell and make, and we hope that we can help more people ‘enjoy daily life’ a bit more through Give One.
Pattern’s Guide to Daily Enjoyment espouses the value of “embracing mediocrity,” that is, allowing yourself the freedom to be a beginner and engage in hobbies without any expectation besides the pure enjoyment of exploration and learning. Is Pattern planning on announcing brands that encourage hobbyism with a low barrier of entry?
In our 10 simple steps to help you enjoy daily life, #7, ‘Embrace mediocrity,’ has been by far the most engaged with one. It was influenced by Tim Wu’s article for the New York Times ‘In Praise of Mediocrity,’ where, as you point out, he talks on the value of doing simple acts for intrinsic enjoyment, not extrinsic validation or needing to be ‘excellent.’ We just want people to do activities more, for the sake of enjoying doing them.
Encouraging people to make hobbies a part of their life is a big part of our goal. For us that means not only celebrating the big wins like races or climbing a mountain, but more embracing daily activities you can do, such as learning how to cook, organizing your apartment, or building a shelf. We are also excited to see what the community we are building is looking for, so we’ll use that feedback to help determine what some of the next brands will be. If that means expanding into typical hobby categories, we’ll embrace it.
What strikes me most is that you seem to be flipping wellness culture on its head. Rather than participating in activities because they are going to result in self-improvement or be an achievement that one can point to, the idea is to embrace them purely for the sake of enjoyment. All of the messaging from Pattern seems to revolve around this concept of being present and relieving yourself from the outside pressures of work and media. How did you arrive at this POV? I assume the thesis is customers are seeking this as well?
Yes this is accurate. There are only 24 hours in the day, a set amount of years most of us will live, and our biology is basically the same as it has been for tens of thousands of years. Yet we keep thinking we can sleep less, work more hours, be more productive, and for what? Our generation was taught to optimize at all costs, and I think it’s cost us a lot. Many of those who earn the most today report being the least fulfilled. So even the ‘winners’ are losing.
So much of our culture is predicated on external validation or achievement as a representation of self. I think Pattern is trying to say, ‘hey, don’t let work define your life, and don’t let what’s on your phone absorb all your free time.’ That’s why we offer alternative activities to do in place of that time, guidance to help change your daily routine, and some content to help you rethink about balance, presence, attention, and well being.
A lot of contemporary well being marketing and content is still focused on optimization; on being the best version of yourself—looking and feeling the healthiest, youngest, most attractive, most optimized for what is considered being a success today.
I think we are trying to reframe what success looks like. It could look like being less exhausted, less burnt out, less anxious, more present, and more in tune with what is enjoyable to you.
You’ve talked about treating home as a sanctuary, and carving out times for winding down, trying new things, and avoiding screens. What does your downtime look like?
I want to be really honest. I am aware of these issues because I’ve struggled with them for years. I try my best to have activities. I skateboard and walk everywhere daily, play basketball weekly, and surf as much as I can. I’m in Puerto Rico right now as I write this. I spend time talking with my friends and girlfriend and family every day. I have a dog I spent a lot of time with and I read books like they are going out of print.
But I also sometimes get pretty exhausted by work, come home tired and just want to see what’s on TV or on my phone. I’ve been too tired to cook too many nights. I think I worked so hard for so many years, and when I entered my 30's I wondered if those weekends [spent working], or trips I didn’t go on, or the long hours put in, were really, really worth it.
Our team talked about what we struggle with on a daily basis. That’s how and why we are building each brand. We use them on ourselves first. Equal Parts has legitimately helped me cook more. Between the products and and guidance part, it’s nice having something to look forward to come home to that is not a screen or work related.
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